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Meet the chef: Alex Espinoza

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Peju Province Winery Chef Alex Espinoza’s “Chef’s Life” isn’t like many other chefs. As the chef for a top Napa Valley winery, he’s not tied to a restaurant and the daily routines that creates. It’s more like every day is a different private event, from wine pairing classes to full winery buyouts and retreats for Bay Area corporations like Facebook and Google. If you’re eating at Peju, Alex is cooking for you! As you might expect from a chef at a gorgeous winery in Napa Valley, Valentine’s Day is always a busy time of year for him, with special events and private dinners in high demand. We thought we’d get some tips for romance straight from the expert – it was a good excuse to catch up with one of our favorite blokes!

Chef Alex EspinozaWhat’s the best part about being a winery chef?
“I’ve been doing this for about 4 years now, and it’s a totally different lifestyle than your traditional chef’s life. It’s different every day, and there’s so much freedom and flexibility, it’s amazing. It’s also helped me learn a lot about wine!”

You just survived Valentine’s Day; what does that look like for a chef?
“It looks like work! (laughs) Chefs are always working on this and many other holidays. But it’s great to be trusted with creating that special romantic moment for people, where they can feel like kings and queens for the day.”

Do lamb and romantic meals go together?
“Hell yeah! Especially with Aussie lamb, the mild, sweet flavor can win over even folks who don't think they like lamb. Lamb is not an everyday meat – at least here in the US – so it has that unique, special occasion feel to it. I love to do a mushroom risotto with asparagus, mushrooms, fresh peas and parmesan, and top it with a beautiful Aussie Lamb tenderloin with red wine reduction and rosemary. Super sexy, and great with wine – petit verdot or a syrah would be perfect.”

What’s a dish you might make at home for a special someone?
“I think brunch is totally overlooked as a special-occasion meal; everybody does dinner, but brunch can be a great surprise to make someone feel special. What about an Aussie lamb hash with fingerling potatoes and fresh herbs, and poached eggs on top! Add a little sparkling wine like our sparkling rosé, or maybe a bellini or mimosa, and you’re in business. You can use leftover braised or roasted lamb, so it’s easier than it looks." 

Sounds delish! Let’s have a bit of that sparkling and think on that a bit…


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